The rapture is a so-called eschatological concept peculiar to American evangelicalism consisting of an end-times event when all believers in Christ, both the dead and the living, will be bodily resurrected. (Wikipedia)
The notion of the rapture has been around since the Bible was made available to the English. In the 1800’s, though, it was promoted by one of the forerunners of modern evangelicalism, the Irish clergyman, John Nelson Darby. In recent decades the rapture has been popularized by the Left Behind fictional series and even a Hollywood movie.
There is considerable disagreement among rapturists regarding the timing of the hoped-for event. There are pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation and post-tribulation rapturists. We will let them fight it out among themselves.
But what is the underlying scriptural basis for the rapture? Primarily, it is based on a passage in I Thessalonians, where Paul wrote: “For this we say unto you by the Word of the Lord: that we who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1 Thess. 4:15-17 The 21st Century KJV)
The assumption of the rapturists is that remaining, living saints will suddenly, all together as one mass, be visibly, bodily, levitated into the sky —not unlike the ascension of Jesus. Everyone “left behind” will be doomed.
Hopefully, those who are interested in the truth realize that virtually everything believed by mainstream evangelicals is wrong. That is not hyperbole. The rapture is like a building without a foundation —constructed in midair.
For one thing, the universal belief that began in the darkest days of Catholicism regarding the immortality of the soul is flatly contradicted in the passage above; namely, that there are persons dead in Christ who are as if asleep; that is to say, they are completely unconscious and virtually non-existent except for the memory of God.
Secondly, the Bible plainly reveals that not all Christians are called to heaven. In fact, most are not. The chosen ones are few compared to the great crowd of persons who are destined to survive the end of the world. The eternal home of mankind is Earth. God has always intended to redeem and rehabilitate mankind and cause the earth to undergo a massive renovation project so as to become what God intended in the beginning —a paradise. That is why it is called “a new earth.”
The notion that those “left behind” are condemned by God is ludicrous. The truth is exactly the opposite. Those who are left over after the wicked are swept away are the blessed ones of Jehovah. Regarding the new earth, this is what Jehovah has said: “No more will there be an infant from that place who lives but a few days, nor an old man who fails to live out his days. For anyone who dies at a hundred will be considered a mere boy, and the sinner will be cursed, even though he is a hundred years of age. They will build houses and live in them, and they will plant vineyards and eat their fruitage. They will not build for someone else to inhabit, nor will they plant for others to eat. For the days of my people will be like the days of a tree, and the work of their hands my chosen ones will enjoy to the full. They will not toil for nothing, nor will they bear children for distress, because they are the offspring made up of those blessed by Jehovah, and their descendants with them.” —Isaiah 65:20-23
So, the entire premise of the rapture is false. Evangelicalism is false.
But what does the Watchtower have to say on the topic of the rapture? While rejecting the “left behind” nonsense of the various sects of evangelicals, there is, decidedly, some un-clarity among Jehovah’s Witnesses regarding how the living will be changed in the twinkling of an eye. Here is what the Watchtower stated most recently on the topic:
Does this mean that there will be a “rapture” of the anointed ones? Many in Christendom believe, according to this teaching, that Christians will be bodily caught up from the earth. Then, they expect that Jesus will visibly return to rule the earth. However, the Bible clearly shows that “the sign of the Son of man” will appear in heaven and that Jesus will come “on the clouds of heaven.” Both of these expressions imply invisibility. Additionally, “flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s Kingdom.” So those who will be taken to heaven will first need to be “changed, in a moment, in the blink of an eye, during the last trumpet.” Therefore, while we do not use the term “rapture” here because of its wrong connotation, the remaining faithful anointed will be gathered together in an instant of time. (WT 7-15-2015)
The “wrong connotation” of the rapture is manifold. However, it appears as if the Watchtower is also promoting something very similar to the rapture with the unfounded notion that the remaining ones are “gathered together in an instant of time.” What does that mean? It is an ambiguous statement, to be sure. Is the Watchtower implying that all of the anointed persons will suddenly drop dead so as to be changed? It certainly appears so. In that regard the only difference between the Watchtower and the rapture is the aspect of invisibility.
Reading over the Watchtower article cited above, it appears in one respect as if the Watchtower is slowly coming around to what I have published concerning the end of the preaching work followed by a period when the remaining ones will issue God’s scathing denunciations upon the world. Of course, the Watchtower cannot provide any scriptural support without their 1914 doctrine coming unraveled. For example, the Watchtower has rendered the 11th chapter of Revelation meaningless by making the preposterous claim that the two witnesses came and went back in 1918 or whenever.
Contrary to the Watchtower’s cockamamie interpretation of Revelation, the appearance of the two symbolic anointed witnesses has the utmost relevance to the gathering of the chosen ones. How so? Well, a review of a portion of Revelation may be helpful.
“When they have finished their witnessing, the wild beast that ascends out of the abyss will wage war with them and conquer them and kill them. And their corpses will be on the main street of the great city that is in a spiritual sense called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was also executed on the stake. And those of the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations will look at their corpses for three and a half days, and they do not allow their corpses to be laid in a tomb. And those dwelling on the earth rejoice over them and celebrate, and they will send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those dwelling on the earth.”
The falsity of the Watchtower’s interpretation ought to be evident to anyone willing to reason upon the facts. The foremost being, the notion that the beast from the abyss is not the same beast from the abyss known as the eighth king is absurd. According to the Watchtower the beast that ascends from the abyss and kills God’s two witnesses does not ascend from the abyss —but from the symbolic sea, since the sea is sometimes referred to as an abyss. It is ridiculous.
The next passage states: “After the three and a half days, spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell upon those who saw them. And they heard a loud voice from heaven say to them: “Come up here.” And they went up into heaven in the cloud, and their enemies saw them. In that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell; and 7,000 persons were killed by the earthquake, and the rest became frightened and gave glory to the God of heaven.”
In his letter to the Thessalonians Paul referred to Christ coming down from heaven and with a commanding call waking the dead and calling the living saints to himself. Similarly, Revelation states that a loud voice from heaven commands the two killed witnesses to “Come up here.” Both passages refer to persons going up into a cloud. Although the Watchtower makes no connection, obviously the resurrection of the two witnesses is pictorial of the gathering of those living during the presence. The killing of the two witnesses symbolizes the martyrdom of the chosen ones after they have given witness to having seen Christ. The three and a half days is not to be understood as being any sort of short term internment. Rather, it is intended to call to mind the brief entombment of Christ, because, obviously, those in union with Christ during his presence do not sleep in death, not for three days, not for one day, not for a minute or even a nano-second.
The 2015 Watchtower is right. There will be a “hard-hitting judgment message.” It will be issued by the two anointed witnesses. They will be witnesses of the fact that the parousia has occurred. They will be witnesses of the manifestation of the Son of God. And after they have finished their witnessing Satan’s resurrected wild beast will kill them. It is not reasonable, though, that this would happen instantly, but rather, over a short period of time. Ultimately, the 7,000 remaining ones will all be killed and instantaneously changed to be with Christ in the invisible realm.
That is what is referred to with the opening of the fifth seal when those dead in Christ are told to wait a little while “until the number was filled of their fellow slaves and their brothers who were about to be killed as they had been.”